While the federal Civil Marriage Act governs most general aspects of
getting married, some marriage laws can differ slightly from province to
Why do I need a marriage certificate?
A marriage certificate is a government-issued document that shows
your marriage is legal. This status confers certain rights unto spouses
and their children such as the sharing of government pensions and
benefits, personal property like a house or car, savings and/or debts
What is “proof of urgency” when requesting a marriage certificate?
If you wish to have your legal marriage expedited immediately you
must first show a reason why this needs to happen, otherwise referred to
as proof of urgency. Reasons could include: a medical emergency, a
letter confirming new employment, airline tickets or travel
reservations, a letter from a consulate or embassy confirming an
appointment, a wedding invitation to your own wedding.
What is the difference between a marriage licence and a marriage certificate?
A marriage licence is a temporary permit issued by the province or
territory in which you plan to be married that lasts about 90 days from
the date it was issued. You must have a licence in order to be married. A
marriage certificate is the legal document you receive after the
wedding that proves your marriage is legal in Canada.
Who can perform marriages?
This varies from province to province, but generally members of the
clergy, provincial judges, justices of the peace, municipal clerks and
marriage commissioners (retired or semi-retired individuals who are
registered to perform civil marriages) can perform a marriage. Only
registered religious officials may perform a religious marriage service.
What is the legal difference between marriage and common-law?
A marriage certificate automatically conveys equal rights onto both
spouses for things like health insurance, social benefits, savings,
property, inheritance, etc. The rights of common-law partners vary
widely from province to province. Generally, common-law couples that
have been together at least one year are allowed to share some federal
benefits, such as pensions. After three years together common-law
partners — in most provinces — can be added to their partner’s
employee benefits plan. British Columbia is the only province that
confers common-law relationships with all the same rights as married
ones, but only after the couple has lived together for two years.
Quebec is the only province where common-law relationships are not
legally recognized no matter how long the couple has been together.
Outside of B.C., the big difference between common-law and married
couples is that in the event of a breakup, a common-law partner does not
automatically have equal ownership of assets such as a house. In the
event of death, a common-law “spouse” would not automatically inherit
any shared property, unless it was included in the deceased’s will, or
in a cohabitation agreement. If the surviving partner’s name was not
listed on the house title, then they would have to make a claim to prove
that they contributed equally to mortgage payments, housing costs,
Can I get married in another country?
Yes. As long as the marriage is legally performed abroad it should be
valid in Canada. If you are able to plan the wedding before you leave,
you can obtain a certificate issued by your province stating that there
are no legal impediments to your marriage. For more information on
overseas marriages, check out the Government of Canada website.
Does my foreign spouse automatically become a Canadian citizen?
No. You will have to apply to sponsor your non-Canadian spouse. You
and your spouse may reside in Canada during the sponsorship process. The
government also requires that you and your spouse live together for a
minimum of two years after your foreign partner is granted permanent
residence status. If you do not remain together, your spouse’s status
may be revoked.
Is my same-sex marriage legal outside of Canada?
Not necessarily. While the marriage is legal in Canada, the same status
and rights would likely not be recognized in countries that have not
legalized gay marriage. In parts of the United States where same-sex
marriage is legal there would be no issue, but in so called
“non-recognition” states the marriage status would not be upheld.
Service Canada: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/lifeevents/marriage.shtml
B.C. Family Law: http://www.familylaw.lss.bc.ca/resources/fact_sheets/marriageDivorceAnnulmentInsideOutsideCanada.php